CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Right-hander Esmil Rogers took a step in the right direction by pitching a relatively impressive 4 2/3 innings vs. the Phillies on Thursday afternoon at Bright House Field.
Rogers allowed five hits and walked just one while striking out six in his fifth appearance of the spring. It was a much better outing than his last start against the Astros, when he allowed four runs in just three innings.
The timing of this positive start also couldn't have been any better, as the Blue Jays continue to hold open auditions for the final spot in their rotation. Rogers is assured of a job on the team, but whether that role comes as a starter or a reliever still remains very much up in the air.
"Everything was working today," said Rogers, who lowered his ERA this spring to 5.27. "My fastball command, my curveball was unbelievable, my slider, any count I want, I could throw 3-2. ... I feel great."
The positive outing did come with a couple of caveats. The Phillies didn't start all of their regulars and Rogers also received quite a bit of help in the field. Jose Bautista threw a runner out at second base and made a diving catch in right field, and catcher Erik Kratz also threw a runner out.
The bigger concern entering the game, though, was Rogers' lack of command in recent starts. He entered with four walks in nine innings, and just as alarming were the number of pitches left up in the zone. That resulted in a large number of hard-hit balls, and Rogers eliminated most of those issues on Thursday, with the exception of back-to-back doubles in the first inning.
Rogers will have one more outing to make his case for the rotation. That's his stated preference, but he's also just fine if his role were to come in relief.
"That's what I've done my whole career. When you do something your whole career you don't want to change it," Rogers said of starting. "But it doesn't matter when you help the team win. That's what I'm looking for. I'm looking to win the World Series, and if I can help the team win the World Series out of the bullpen, I'll do it."